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Porsche developing tech that predicts maintenance issues and can improve vehicle resale value

Digital twinning allows the automaker to monitor vehicle use, precondition safety systems in adverse conditions, streamline service visits and more.

Porsche Digital Twin
Porsche is leveraging big data to improve the vehicle ownership experience. 
Porsche

What if your vehicle could provide early maintenance warnings, preemptively alert you to dangerous road conditions or even help you maximize the amount of money you get when selling or trading in? These are just a few of the things Porsche's digital-twin technology could enable.

But wait, what the heck is a digital twin? Simply put, it's a virtual copy of an existing object, be it a vehicle, system or component, one you can monitor, diagnose and even perform data-driven analysis on, all without needing to interact with the physical car or part. Pretty cool, eh?

Porsche's been working on digital-twin technology with its Taycan all-electric sedan for about three years. To date, the automaker's focused on the chassis because, arguably, it's the most important part of its cars, the one that's subjected to sustained high loads when a vehicle is driver in anger, especially on a race track. Digital twin development work is managed by Cariad, the Volkswagen Group's standalone, automotive-focused software company. Given its affiliation with this larger organization, Porsche has access to information from all VW Group vehicles, which increases the amount of data it can work with by a factor of 20.

Someday, your Porsche may be able to tell you when a critical component need service, even before it fails. 

Porsche

Predictive maintenance alerts can be enabled by digital-twin technology. Philip Müller, executive assistant to the director of chassis and special projects at Cariad, explained during a media briefing that, after hitting a pothole, a vehicle could predict that one of its dampers might need replacing within the next two weeks. This determination is made by data gathered by body-acceleration sensors. The car could then warn the driver of an impending failure and even alert the owner's preferred dealership, so they have the relevant parts on hand for a seamless service experience.

The Porsche Taycan's air-suspension system is already being monitored like this, with about half of owners opting to participate in a pilot program. Data is collected about body acceleration and sent to a backend system, which compares this information to the rest of the vehicle fleet. If thresholds are exceeded, the driver can be alerted to have their car inspected for potential damage. Privacy is important to Porsche, and owners must opt in to share any data, all of which is kept anonymous. Data is preprocessed right in the vehicle to minimize the amount that needs to be transferred, but owners can deactivate this information transmission at any time. Security is a top priority for Porsche.

The same thing can be done with powertrains. An owner's driving style can be ascertained by taking data collected from his or her vehicle and comparing it to information gathered from other motorists' cars. This information can be used to customize service intervals and even alert technicians to inspect specific components, which can save time, increase safety and prevent maintenance headaches down the road.

Having access to a digital twin can also help technicians diagnose intermittent issues. If a suspension clunk only happens in a certain part of a particular parking garage, the digital twin can show what sort of inputs cause this noise, what steering angle it may occur at and the speed the vehicle is going. Having this additional information can make it much easier to identify and repair stubborn issues.

The future is coming sooner than you think.

Porsche

Digital twinning could also warn other Porsche owners of hazardous conditions. Road roughness maps can be crowdsourced and shared, ditto for warnings about pavement friction levels. If a section of highway is icy, for instance, that can be broadcast to other drivers in the area, so they know to take extra care; relevant safety systems can also be preconditioned.

Finally, digital twinning can help increase the value of your car by using driving habits to project residual value. This feature is not available yet, and the automaker isn't sure when it might be offered. But if owners decide to participate, Porsche could provide them with a history report of their vehicle, showing that maintenance was done on schedule, that repairs were made in a timely fashion and that a car wasn't abused by being driven on a track every other weekend. This information has no weight on its own, but it could help the owner prove they took care of their car, which might get them a higher price when selling. Beyond, that, if maintenance and repairs were done on schedule, Porsche could even offer drivers an extended warranty.

Amazingly, digital twinning can be done without adding a mass of additional sensors or cameras to vehicles. Müller explained: "We only have software algorithms to detect events." They take in data from sensors that are already in the vehicle, something that should help keep costs low.

The first production version of Porsche's digital-twin technology is expected to launch next year. It will only monitor vehicle mechatronic components, though additional features and functionality could certainly be added in the future. Porsche already builds some of the greatest, most-satisfying cars in the world, though digital-twin capability should further improve the ownership experience.

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